Turnovers may decide Broncos’ matchup today against Patriots

Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?

That’s easy to this point, knucklehead. It’s Houston, with Atlanta right behind.

So, what about Denver and New England? Where do they stand in this pile of parity?

Also easy, knucklehead. Denver lost to both Atlanta and Houston in going 2-2. New England lost to a good Arizona team and a good Baltimore team in going 2-2. Both teams will be in the playoff mix in another two months, and both teams will close the gap on our fairest twosome.

So, Mirror, who wins today’s game at Foxboro, Patriots or Broncos?

I’m not going to give it away, knucklehead. That wouldn’t be fair to all those people who took their lumps in the Seattle-Green Bay game. I will, however, give you a hint: Look at the numbers, look closely.

Ah yes, numbers, lots of numbers …

We’ve mentioned the Broncos and Pats are 2-2. Denver players, staff and fans are happy with that mark because of the well-publicized nasty schedule early in the season. Patriot fans are disappointed after a number of pundits in the Northeast predicted numbers like 16-0 or 15-1.

Let’s look at the offensive numbers behind two surefire Hall of Famers.

The Broncos and Peyton Manning have taken well to each other, with Manning throwing for 1,162 yards and eight TDs in going 99 of 153 for 64.7 percent.

Tom Brady is, as usual, emulating Manning to the max. His numbers are slightly better than Manning: 1,227 yards and seven TDs on 101 of 154 for 65.6 percent.

But no real advantage to either.

The top wide receivers for both teams also have remarkably similar numbers. Denver’s Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker have teamed for 45 catches, 647 yards and three TDs, while Wes Welker and former Bronco Brandon Lloyd have 50 catches for 667 yards and one TD for the Pats.

Even the tight end spot, where New England would have an edge over any team with its two-headed Rob Gronkowski-Aaron Hernandez monster, is now relatively even with Hernandez down and out. Gronkowski has 19 catches for 260 yards and three TDs. His new tight end teammate, former Bronco Daniel Fells, has caught only one pass for 18 yards.

Denver’s two tight ends, Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreesen, have teamed for 22 catches for 200 yards and three TDs, almost Gronk-like.

One place New England gains an edge is at the running back spot, and it’s not because Denver is lacking. The Patriots are averaging 144 yards per game rushing, with Steven Ridley having gained 339 yards for a 4.6-yard average and Brandon Bolden adding 152 yards on a hefty 6.6-yard average.

Denver has Willis McGahee on par with Ridley with 325 yards and a 4.7 average, but there has been no Bolden behind McGahee, a fact that could change quickly with the emergence of rookie Ronnie Hillman, who impressed last week with his part-time effort against the Raiders.

If you remember last year’s playoff slaughter at the hands of the Patriots, you’ll remember the Broncos trying to match up with the myriad Patriot receivers by inserting six, sometimes seven defensive backs. The Patriots then simply ripped off huge runs through Denver’s undermanned defensive front.

Denver’s defense has improved this season against the rush, allowing only 88 yards per game on the ground. It will have to continue that pace today to stay in it against the Pats, who allow only 84 yards rushing per game.

One place Denver may hold an edge is the defense against the pass. Denver is allowing only 220 yards through the air, while the Pats are allowing 280. But it is Brady they are faced with defending.

The numbers show the Pats have a slight edge in the rushing game and defending against the rush, the Broncos have a slight edge in defending against the pass.

But it still looks virtually even, Mr. Mirror.

That being the case, it will come down to turnovers on a field that is expected to be wet (70 percent chance of rain).

The Patriots came up with six turnovers against the Bills last week. On the season, they have six interceptions and five fumble recoveries.

The Broncos, on the other hand, have only two interceptions on the year and have recovered one fumble.

I remember a number of Colt games with Manning at the helm when the Colts never had to punt and never gave the ball away.  It’s coming with the Broncos, but not quite there yet. I’ll take my 2-2 record picking with or against Denver and say a couple of turnovers prove too much to overcome: New England 34, Denver 27.


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